Lester Maynard was appointed US consul at Sandakan in British North Borneo on 26 June 1906. In October of that year he learned that a German-born naturalized American citizen by the name of Adolf Muller had become very ill and was in the Sandakan Hospital.


Mr. Muller asked the consul to write a letter to his father. Maynard did so, and on 29 October 1906 this is what he wrote:

“At your son’s request I am writing to inform you that he is ill in the Sandakan Hospital suffering from Stomatitis and a complicated derangement of the stomach, liver and bowels, having been taken ill while at his work in the jungle and entering the hospital on the 23rd of this month.”

I have no idea what a “complicated derangement of the stomach, liver and bowels” is, but it sounds horrific!! And indeed, Maynard went on to say that although the young Muller was weak, he was “brave and patient,” as I’m sure anyone who tries to deal with such a “complicated derangement” would have to be.

Maynard also assured the senior Muller that his son “shall want for nothing that can be supplied him here and I will see that the best possible care will be taken of him.” This promise, however, was not easy to keep.

Bajau in Borneo

That same day, Maynard wrote a letter to Fredrick Davies, the British North Borneo government surgeon, to complain about the lack of care that Muller was receiving. This is what he wrote:

“Today I called on Mr. Muller accompanied by Mr. Arbens, the German Vice Consul and found Mr. Muller alone in the ward, lying on his back with his head hanging limply over the side of the bed and blood dripping from his lips.”

Apparently on the previous day Maynard had found that there was a “coolie” who was taking care of Muller, and Maynard had dismissed him. However, the Chinese boy who replaced him was also “careless,” and on this day Maynard found the boy “on the veranda talking to another Chinaman.”

Muller was still able to talk, and he informed Maynard that all he had eaten that day had been sour milk that had made him vomit.

Maynard examined the milk, and finding it indeed sour, scolded the Chinese boy who was supposed to be taking care of Muller. To which the boy replied, “It is not my fault. The cook gave it to me.”


It is unclear if Mr. Muller was cared for any better after this point, for on 1 November 1906, Maynard wrote another letter to the senior Muller informing him that his son had died from “Typhoid Malaria, with Stomatitis and complications as stated in my letter to you of October 29th 1906.”

Adolf Muller was born in Germany, emigrated to America, and sought his fortune in the jungles of British North Borneo, only to end up dying in a Sandakan hospital from a “complicated derangement of the stomach, liver and bowels” under the indifferent and incompetent care of Chinese “coolies.”

Human beings are amazing. . . and life is totally crazy.

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